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Mary Mastroeni

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Dodge Winter Lawn Damage

January 4, 2017 12:27 am

(Family Features)--Winter conditions can present a wide range of challenges to your lawn and landscape, but there are precautions you can take to protect your lawn, as well as your trees and shrubs, from seasonal harm.

Preventive steps from the lawncare experts at TruGreen can help your lawn survive the winter season’s harsh elements.

Snow Plow Damage

Install brightly-colored boundary markers along the edges of paved areas to help protect lawn and shrubs from snow plow and snow thrower blades. Lightweight wooden stakes, at least four feet tall with bright reflective tape and brightly covered fiberglass rods, serve as good markers. Avoid heavy metal, fence posts and other large objects, as they can pose a hazard to snow plow operators.

Cold Temperature Stress

More so than any other season, trees and shrubs are vulnerable to changing weather conditions during the winter. Wide temperature fluctuation and extremely low temperatures are the biggest factors of tree stress, meaning your trees are more susceptible to things like frost cracks, sunscald and winter burn.

Keep twigs and limbs from breaking under the weight of ice by carefully brushing away, whenever possible, any snow load from plants, which will reduce the weight on the limbs and decrease the damage. Placing a burlap cover around shrubs such as boxwood and yews will help reduce winter desiccation.

Proper fertilization can help keep your trees and shrubs healthy well into spring, and allow them to better tolerate winter. A service can help with tree and shrub services customized to meet your landscape’s every need, including applications to control overwintering insects, pests and mites.

Freezing Temperatures

Damage to plants, shrubs and trees as a result of sustained low temperatures can typically go undetected until spring or early summer, when plants fail to produce new growth. To help prevent damage, maintain a two- to three-inch layer of mulch to help protect the crown and roots from weather extremes.

Winter Dehydration

During the colder months of winter, plants cannot replace moisture lost from leaves and needles. This leads to “dehydration” – technically known as desiccation. To help avoid this problem, maintain proper watering late into the fall, or water during periods of winter thaw.

Ice Melt

Ice-melting agents, such as rock salt and products containing calcium and magnesium chloride, may accumulate in the soil and cause damage to plants. Use extreme care when applying ice-melting agents to prevent damage to your plants or concrete surfaces.

Source: TruGreen.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Things to Remove From Your Home When You List It

January 3, 2017 12:27 am

When listing your home, there are a lot of things to think about. How you stage your space should definitely be at the top of that list. While you may not have the means to bring in a pro stager, you can put your best foot forward by removing the following from your space.

Family photos. While these treasures may mean the world to you, personal items like this make it difficult for a potential buyer to imagine themselves in your space. Pack up these photos for the move—you'll need to do this eventually anyway, so consider it a head start.

Odors. From a musky basement to the closet where the kitty litter box is kept, odors in your home are a huge turn off. Rip up mildewed carpet, open windows, light candles--whatever you need to do to keep a buyers nose from wrinkling.

Clutter. While you may love your corners stacked high with books and your shelves piled with mementos and knick-knacks, clutter can be distracting for buyers. Pick a few key items to leave out on shelves and pack the rest away.

Non-neutral design elements. Black lights in the basement or lacy, frilly curtains in the sunroom may seem fun to you, but these bold design elements can throw a buyer. Create a neutral atmosphere wherever possible.

Junk. Clear any old, unused items from your closets, storage spaces, basement and attic. You're going to have to get rid of these items when you move anyway, so you may as well do this now so your buyer can envision their own items filling up these spaces. 

Pets. While it may not be possible to banish your furry friends while your home is for sale, you can make sure they're out of the way when a buyer is visiting. You never know what allergies or fears buyers may have, so put the animals outside or bring them over to grandmas for an hour, if possible.

Worn-out furniture. That sagging, stained couch in the basement may not be a big deal to you, but it can be an eyesore to an outsider. An empty space is better than a poorly furnished space, so adjust where needed.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Financial Resolutions for the New Year

January 3, 2017 12:27 am

When it comes to making resolutions, many Americans hope to stash away more cash. Below are several easy financial resolutions you can make to bolster your bank account.

Open a separate savings account to force yourself to build an emergency savings fund. Make it separate from your main financial institution, with no ATM card, so you will be forced to go into a branch to withdraw money.

Educate yourself. Check out some books on personal finance or subscribe to a magazine or personal finance blog.  

Pull your credit score and report. A good way to start the year is to find out exactly where you stand financially. Download your credit report (one free each year from each of the three main reporting bureaus) at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Plan ahead. Get in the habit each night of preparing for the next day: Packing lunches, prepping breakfast and dinner.  That way you will not be tempted to buy convenience food on the run, because you are rushed.

Unsubscribe. Remove the temptation of impulse buying online by unsubscribing from retail email.  This can take some time, but, ultimately, you will save time and money by not being bombarded with emails "deals", tempting you to buy.

Source: www.greenpath.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Home Office Upgrades to Make This Year

December 31, 2016 12:24 am

If you're like many people, you tend to do at least a little work from home. Whether you full on run a business out of your living space or simply need a nook to work on your finances or groom your Pinterest board, the following tips can help you upgrade that home office.

Splurge on something inspirational. Whether it's an original piece from a favorite artist or a high-tech piece of equipment that makes working more exciting, splurge on something for your work space that makes you excited to be there.

Light it right. The right lighting can make all the difference. While low lighting can set a romantic mood, it can also make you sleepy or unmotivated—not the right vibe for a workspace. At the same time, fluorescent lighting can lead to headaches. Set up your work station by a window for natural light in the daytime, and set up a few good lamps around the room to ensure you can light the space adequately.

Upgrade your storage. Sick of those piles of paper that end of stacking up on your desk? Make sure you have a proper storage or filing system in place so everything can be stowed away in a place that is out of sight, but also easy to access when needed.

Create a “Do Not Disturb” signal. Whether you have a curious spouse or a gaggle of kids, creating a signal that says you're in the zone is key. It doesn't need to be a literal “do not disturb” sign on a door. A ribbon tied to a doorknob or a certain type of music you listen to when you're working can do the trick.

Support your body. If you spend a lot of time at your desk, it's extra important you shell out for the things that ease the strain of sitting for long hours. A kneeling desk chair can support your back, while raising your monitor to eye level can ease neck pain. You can also have a small yoga space tucked into your office where you can take a short break to stretch out before you get back to it.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Things to Do When Stuck in Traffic

December 31, 2016 12:24 am

Sitting in traffic can be a major mood drain. When it happens at the start of the day, it can leave you feeling grouchy for hours. Below are a handful of things to keep you happy while staring at the bumper in front of you.

Dig into an audio book. This is the most obvious choice for making commute times fly by. A good book can turn hours into minutes and can even leave you sitting in your office parking lot with the radio on.

Try a podcast. If you're not into audio books, don't write off podcasts. From home improvements to love advice and comedy hours, there are so many high quality podcasts available you're sure to find something to lift your mood. Bonus: most of these podcasts are absolutely free.

Voice memos. Are you a creative? Make use of your traffic time by leaving yourself voice memos. Tackle your to-do lists, make notes on a current project, or even write a novel while sitting in your car. There are many apps these days that turn voice memos into written documents, so even if you're not working on a creative project, write an email to a friend or family member and boost your relationships from the comfort of your car. 

Meditative breathing. While it's not safe to meditate while operating a motor vehicle, you can breath your way to a more blissful state by focusing on your inhalations and exhalations. Look into meditative breathing practices and try them out in the car. At best, you will arrive at your destination with a clear, calm mind. At worst, your bod will be full of fresh oxygen.

Practice positive thinking. Positive thinking can offer endless benefits, from a boosted mood to manifesting great things, like that new job you've been after. Instead of grumbling your way through bumper-to-bumper, spend your commute imagining positive changes. Focus on that dream vacation you're saving up for, the new home you hope to have one day, finding a new romantic partner or adopting a puppy or kitten.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Create a Paperless Home

December 31, 2016 12:24 am

Take a look around your office and you’ll probably notice there’s something missing: those teetering towers of papers that used to pile up on the edge of your desk. As we move further and further into a digital environment, paper is being tossed in favor of email, the cloud and text messages.

While a paperless environment is becoming the norm in the work world, it may be a different story at home, where mail collects on your kitchen counter and outdated magazines have sprouted roots in your living room. Want to replicate the paperless environment of your work world at home? Here’s how to get started:

Cancel subscriptions. Any publication worth its salt—from newspapers to magazines—now has a digital version online, so cut back on your print subscriptions, narrowing it down to those few publications you really enjoy sitting with over coffee.

Ditto for catalogs. Anything you might shop for in a catalog can be shopped for online.  What’s more, viewing an item online usually means the ability to zoom, see different angles, and read reviews.

Put your scanner to work. Of course there is a wide variety of paperwork and records that we must hold onto for future reference. Instead of stacking away yet another cardboard box in the attic, start scanning your important paperwork and create a digital file. Be sure to keep several back-up copies of such online records.

Switch to online banking. Do you really need paper bank statements when you can access your account anytime online? If you’re uncomfortable about some of the new online and mobile banking options go sit down with someone at your local branch and get a quick tutorial. Once you go online banking, you’ll never go back.

Enroll in autopay. There is also no need to get buried under the endless flow of credit card bills and records coming into your house. Set up all your credit card accounts online and enroll in autopay. Not only will this ensure that you never miss a payment, it will pull you out from under the mountain of credit-related paperwork.

Nix the notes. Part of the paper pile-up at home can be attributed to the random post-it notes, to-do lists and reminder scraps gracing our counters, bureaus and fridge-doors. This can all be consolidated and nicely organized in your smartphone’s memo feature, the sticky notes function on your desktop, or one of several apps, such as Evernote or OneNote.

Not only is a paperless home a more organized home, it’s one that runs more efficiently as well. So get out from under the piles and start enjoying your newly liberated environment.

For more helpful financial and real estate information, feel free to contact me directly.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Shopping for a New Car? Game on!

December 30, 2016 12:24 am

Dreaming of a shiny new car in your driveway? Then come back down to earth and create a solid game plan. While the prospect of a new set of wheels is very exciting, it’s critical to slow down and make wise decisions—after all, a car is a big investment. Here are some tips for becoming a savvy car consumer:

1. Get your loan first, advises Consumer Reports. Even before you know what type of car you’re going to buy, do some loan comparison shopping online and find out what sort of interest rates you’re looking at—a difference of only two percentage points can add up to more than $1,000 over the life of the loan. Focus on the annual percentage rate (APR) and go for the shortest timeframe possible—you will end up paying much less for your car over four years as opposed to five.

2. Do upfront research online. According to financial expert Clark Howard, start with the annual April auto issue of Consumer Reports, which features their list of recommended cars to buy. Once you’ve decided on the cars you’re considering, search online for the dealer cost of the vehicle with the options you want. Then, says Howard, get some online price quotes and contact dealers to see if they’ll match the quote.

3. Know your “shopping style” and stick to it, says Kelley Blue Book. Many car buyers get swept away in the moment—or by an effective salesperson—and end up buying a car they didn’t have in mind. So have a clear understanding of what matters most to you in new car - such as value, image or safety - and don’t be talked out of it.

3. Time to choose: new, used or lease? There are several options available when it comes to buying a car, and thanks to the popularity of leasing, you can add certified pre-owned (CPO) to the list. According to BankRate, a CPO may offer the best of all worlds—they’re cheaper than brand-new cars, usually have some warranty left and must meet certain criteria to ensure their condition. Know the pros and cons of each option and decide what will work best for you in advance.

4. Don’t skimp on the test drive. Forget the quick spin around the block—ask the dealership if you can take the car for a few hours or maybe even for the weekend. You want to make sure you’re experiencing the car in a variety of ways (i.e., highway and street) and  in several conditions (i.e, rain, snow, nighttime). BankRate also suggest that you spend some time in the car while it’s in park—play with the seat adjustments and other controls, and survey the backseat and trunk space.

Following the above steps will help stave off buyer’s remorse and keep you happily rolling along in your new ride for years to come.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Firework Safety for the New Year

December 30, 2016 12:24 am

New Year's Eve is a wonderful time to celebrate. However, if libations flow freely on New Year's night, make sure you're not manning any fire works. Just like you wouldn't drink and drive, drinking and shooting fireworks is a huge safety hazard, resulting in many deaths and injuries every year.

Nancy Blogin, President of the National Council on Fireworks Safety notes: "Each New Year's Eve, consumers are injured because their judgment has been impaired by beer, wine, or other alcoholic drink. In the past several years, there have been reports of accidents where the person that was injured had been under the influence of alcohol and did not handle the fireworks in a responsible way.  The lesson is simple: alcohol and fireworks don't mix."

In addition, the National Council reminds shooters of consumer fireworks of these other important safety tips:

- Only use fireworks outdoors.
- Use fireworks as directed on the product label.
- Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
- Never give fireworks to young children.
- Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
- Always have a bucket of water, or water hose, nearby.

Source: www.FireworksSafety.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Use a Gift Card Exchange

December 30, 2016 12:24 am

We've all received a gift card we know we'll never use. Instead of letting the card gather dust or purchasing something you don't truly want, consider using a gift card exchange network to trade that card for one you value more, or swap it for cash value.

According to Cardpool, gift card buyers and sellers interested in using exchange services can follow these tips when considering their gift card exchange options:

Look for trusted exchange providers with a gift card purchase guarantee. For example, Cardpool guarantees that gift cards purchased from its website will be valid at the merchant for the dollar amount specified on your order for up to 180 days from the date of your purchase and up to a maximum of $1,000 per customer.  Do your research before selecting your gift card exchange company. Search news coverage and online reviews including the exchange company's status with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Choose an exchange that verifies the gift card balance. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting with a site that is clear and visible.  

Understand how the buying and selling process works. Read the fine print. Check out reviews and see if former users are satisfied. Be an informed consumer and you will have a positive experience.  

Source: www.cardpool.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Walking: For Your Health and for Your Home’s Value

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

Requiring little athletic ability and virtually no cost, walking has become a popular fitness option for people of all ages. But for a growing number of Americans, walking is about much more than exercise—it’s a lifestyle choice.

Developers and agents across the country can attest to the popularity of this real estate trend and the increase in walkable neighborhoods. A rise in urban living space nationwide is in direct response to consumer demand for the ability to walk to public transportation, restaurants, stores and more.  

While according to the 2015 National Community and Transportation Preference Survey, conducted by the National Association of REALTORS® and the Transportation Research and Education Center at Portland State University, millennials prefer walking over driving by 12 percentage points, walkable neighborhoods are not just for the young—retiring baby boomers are also looking for a lifestyle that puts culture and entertainment within walking distance.

According to the report ‘Foot Traffic Ahead,’ conducted by the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at George Washington University School of Business in conjunction with LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, walkable urban places are growing in all of the 20 largest metro areas in the U.S., gaining marketshare against suburban competitors for the first time in decades and garnering higher rent premiums, reports Curbed.

What makes a neighborhood walkable? According to Walk Score®, which helps people evaluate an area’s walkability when deciding where to live, walkable neighborhoods feature the following characteristics:

- A center of town, such as a main street our public space
- Enough people to allow local businesses to thrive and public transit to run frequently
- Mixed-income and mixed-use housing, including affordable housing near businesses
- Plenty of parks and public space
- A pedestrian-friendly design, i.e, buildings are close to the street while parking lots are located further back
- Schools and workplaces that are close enough for most residents to walk to from their homes
- Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians and transportation

And here they are—2016’s 10 most walkable cities, according to Walk Score:

1. New York City
2. San Francisco
3. Boston
4. Philadelphia
5. Miami
6. Chicago
7. Washington, D.C.
8. Seattle
9. Oakland
10. Long Beach

Lace up your sneakers and take a stroll in your neighborhood to get a sense of its walkability. There might be more within reach than you realized—and at the very least, your health will thank you.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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